Maryville’s new organization: Autism Speaks U

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April is National Autism Awareness Month, and one organization on campus is overjoyed. Autism Speaks U, a new organization on campus this semester, with a goal to raise awareness and acceptance of people on the Autism spectrum.

Regan Strinni, the organization’s president, and fellow classmates Luis Castro, Mickayla Jackson and Caleb Holaway got together to form an organization that involves students who have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

“One organization specifically that inspires me is ABLE. Veronica and the rest of the executive board work constantly to make our campus more accessible for everyone,” Strinni states. “Another group that inspired me was Best Buddies. The programs and events they have are phenomenal! But I noticed that Maryville didn’t have an organization specific to promote Autism awareness.”

To form their new organization, the group of students also had to choose a faculty advisor. Strinni approached Carol Berger, a nursing professor at Maryville University.

Berger discusses why she decided to advise the new organization, “I became involved because I have a grandson who has Autism. He is an extremely intelligent little boy who struggles to fit in socially with his peers. You can see how much he wants to participate but lacks the skills to do it.”

Strinni’s reasoning for getting involved in Autism Speaks U also had to do with her relative being affected by the disorder. “My little brother and three of my cousins all have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.”

It seems that most of the members have someone in their family or someone they know who struggles with Autism,” Berger said. “This is a really motivated group that wants to spread the word about what Autism is and help the community at Maryville have more awareness about it.”

The founding members of Autism speaks U at Maryville University
Photo courtesy of Regan Strinni

Despite being new to campus, Strinni believes Autism Speaks U has already made an impact at Maryville. “The most rewarding thing about ASUMU is the ability to bring people together and talk about Autism. During our general board meetings, we’ve had some great dialogue about our experiences and how our lives are impacted by ASD. Talking with my peers about people we know that are on the spectrum, has been fascinating and therapeutic. Our mission at Autism Speaks U is promote awareness and acceptance of people on the Autism Spectrum and raise money for research.”

Strinni states Autism Speaks U has a clear goal, “Our mission is to promote awareness and acceptance of people on the Autism Spectrum and raise money for research.”

To show support for the new organization, stop by the CSE or email Strinni at and ask how to help!


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